Baseball Tax Tussle

The Council is drawing yet another line in the sand after learning about the Mayor's latest baseball stadium proposal.

The mayor's aides were confident yesterday that they will get MLB to say yes to the spending cap, perhaps by tomorrow and by Monday at the latest. (Monday is the deadline set by the council.) The mayor's spokesman, Vince Morris, insists that we have made too much of the cost overruns issue because, he says, there won't be any overruns. Others tell me, however, that if the mayor is so certain the stadium will be built on budget, then why won't baseball just endorse the spending cap and be done with it?

While council chairman Linda Cropp and other council members who voted in favor of the spending cap are now on record saying they oppose what the mayor is doing -- pledging excess tax money to cover overruns, if necessary -- it is not clear how far the council will go to rein in the mayor. The mayor's staff appears to believe they can get the assurance that the tax plan is technically legal under the council's legislation, convince MLB that the stadium is covered and get the deal done by Monday with no further council action.

Anyone care to bet how this latest wrinkle will play out?

By David Nakamura |  March 2, 2006; 11:03 AM ET
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This bunch could screw up a 2-car funeral.

Posted by: David in DC | March 2, 2006 12:44 PM

Since Linda is running on an "I'm savvy and experienced" platform, she'll need to defend that fig-leaf of a spending cap. How much room does the Mayor have to help her?

Posted by: Mark | March 2, 2006 01:09 PM

I don't see how the Council can oppose the Mayor's proposal with a straight face. The excess tax revenues will come from taxes already dedicated to the stadium project. There is no legitimate reason not to use any excess from those taxes towards that project. The money would not come out of the pockets of D.C. taxpayers. Those on the Council who oppose it base their position only on the idea that a particular dollar figure must not be exceeded. The opposition is arbitrary and nonsensical. The Council has approved the stadium, so using monies already dedicated to it to get it built makes perfect sense and harms no one. It only helps everyone by ensuring that the project is completed and that the benefits it will bring to the city are realized.

Posted by: Jay | March 2, 2006 02:38 PM

Plain and simple, there is something going on behind the scenes that we don't know about. The city council approved the lease with "technical ammendments" on Feb 7th. It is now March 2nd, and MLB is again waiting until the deadline to make a decision. With Mayor Tony Williams frantically trying to come up with ways to pay for cost overuns, this tells me that MLB isn't willing to sign off, or they would have weeks ago. Monday, March 6th has the potential to be a sad, sad day for Washington DC.

Posted by: Navy Yard | March 2, 2006 02:56 PM

If you thought the process involving the baseball stadium and lease was a fiasco, you have seen nothing. Wait until you see the false information, mis-statements, faulty financials, questionable statistics, and phoney justifications the Mayor, City Council and Howard University will use to support the construction of a $400-$500 million dollar 250 bed Hospital known as the National Capital Medical Center (NCMC). It will make us wish we can go back to the baseball issue.

Posted by: Frank Zampatori | March 2, 2006 03:11 PM

Please Mayor Williams don't leave us now!

Serve one more term. I beg of you. We need you! One more term then Aruba, or Cabo to decompress for a few years, but you know I'm right. We almost have respectability as a city. One more term will get us up over the mountain peak and give us much more hope of becoming a changed new vibrant city. I know it's a lot to ask, but the legacy you leave will be untouchable. The other candidates do not share the depth of your vision, and will swish it around and play with it like a mud pie until it is just a mess. Please sir, consider running for mayor again. I will campaign my heart out for you if you help my home town of DC heal completely.


Council Members That Oppose Stadium Prove To Be The Buzz Kill That Dulled A City's Spirit and Changed Rampant Baseball Fever To A Case of Nausea, Depression and Lethargy.

Opposing council members! Wake up. Stop messing with my home town. I want to meet and cheer with my DC fellow residents. Last year was a blast. I got to know all types of people and high five strangers from areas of town I've never visited like we were old friends because the Nats hit a homer in the ninth!

Mayor Williams did a wonderful thing, and you guys are stomping all over it. Let it happen now and smile with us at a few games. How can the local starry eyed kids enjoy the game when you are minimizing the importance of it.

I was 10 when the Senator's were moved away because of a DC council members' attitude and flip remark of "What are you going to do move the team". MLB did it. They will probably do it again on Monday because of you!!!! Everyone is sick to their stomach listening to your whining about minor short sighted principle. Please impress the enthusiastic masses, and just let it happen. Then put on a Nats hat and take your family to a game and laugh for god's sake!

OK Overruns, The Mayor is using your language to make this deal happen because MLB is going to say no. You have your arms crossed, eyes closed, and are shaking your head if MLB even hiccups. Humility time.

Here is what you are going to do. Openly offer to create a plan that has all three parties contribute equally to a fund: The new owners from all the various sales income, the city, using the method already in your agreement and suggested by the mayor and MLB, from a tiny percentage of the team's sale profits put aside in a special account.

Make it happen. It's a good thing for everybody, especially for the kids. It inspires youth with the teamwork hero's it creates and the sense of community it builds. It is the only place to get together with a cross section of everybody in our metro area besides the DMV. Everybody goes to baseball games. Football is too expensive and there are only 8 home games. There are dozens and dozens of chances to sing "Take me out to the ballgame" in a season sitting next to people you would never meet in your daily tunnel vision routines.
It brings us together. So be happy that you were there when it was all created.


Alex Papadopoulos

Posted by: Alex Papadopoulos | March 2, 2006 06:29 PM

I guess I'd rather my kid actually play baseball for himself at one of our crumbling neighborhood ballparks. I think it's too bad we're willing to spend lord-only-knows how many hundreds of millions of dollars for a pro ballpark, while in FY 05 DPR was budgeted less then ten million to maintain all DC's parks. But that's differing priorities for you.

Posted by: none | March 2, 2006 10:03 PM

Don't you realize that the fanboys have every right to steal as much of your money as they want to subsidize their trivial entertainment choice?

Posted by: Now, now none | March 2, 2006 10:49 PM

baseballs buttboy mr toughey will deliver whatever the MLB owners want. period. let's just get it done.

Posted by: martine vose | March 3, 2006 07:23 AM

The stadium and tema will provide ample revenue to improve aprks, schools and many other things in DC.

How typical -- when DC has the opportunity to do something to benefit the city, race and class gets in the way. For once, I'd like to see sensible long-term planning trump short-term crass politics.

Posted by: Glover Park | March 3, 2006 11:43 AM

Glover Park wrote:

How typical -- when DC has the opportunity to do something to benefit the city, race and class gets in the way. For once, I'd like to see sensible long-term planning trump short-term crass politics.

Isn't complaining about how race and class get in the way, when they haven't even been previously raised in this thread, more than a bit crass?

Posted by: None | March 3, 2006 12:47 PM

Who cares about the thread? Race and class have been raised throughout the stadium debate as they have in every D.C. political issue. From recycling to church double parking. Adrian Fenty has made appealing to race and class divisions one of his mayoral campaign strategies.

Posted by: Bob | March 3, 2006 01:05 PM

Crass? No. It is recognizing the reality of what is goin on rather than tap-dancing arond with all kinds of b.s. about costs, education, etc.

The stadium fight is a very simple dynamic: an African-American majority council wanting its ring kissed by a bunch of rich white team owners.

Posted by: Glover Park | March 3, 2006 01:42 PM

Actually the D.C. Council has a white majority. What it needs is a "act in the long term interest of the city" majority.

Posted by: Bob | March 3, 2006 03:31 PM

For the one millioneth time to the holier-than-thou types denigrating baseball -- if the stadium deal is sunk, there will not be ONE PENNY more for neighborhood parks, schools or libraries because the money is coming not from general revenues but from a dedicated tax source that won't exist if there is no new stadium. If, however, the stadium gets built, we have a stronger tax base to help support all these things, much of it paid by - drum roll - suburbanites! What part of this don't you understand?

Posted by: carmine | March 3, 2006 03:45 PM

I think there is a majority in the city that is so obstinate, stupid and hopeless that they'd rather see D.C. stay or go back to the way it was instead of being a successful and great city.

Posted by: Bob | March 3, 2006 04:09 PM

And again, there have been exactly zero cases where the revenue generated by a stadium _and_ any associated development in the area around said stadium have done better than break even with costs.

Zero, you dimwits. So we aren't "spending money to make money". This no "tax base" or development gain. We are at best paying $10 to get $10, and more likely $10 for $9.

Posted by: Idiots | March 4, 2006 10:24 AM


Wrong again, this time on the SF ballpark. Here are the facts:

Architect: HOK Sport (Kansas City)
Construction: Huber, Hunt & Nichols, Inc. and Kajima Construction Services
Owner: China Basin Ballpark Corp., a subsidiary of the Giants
Cost: $357 million
Private financing: $170 million loan from Chase Manhattan Bank, $70 million from the sale of charter seat licenses, $102 million from the sale of naming rights, sponsorships and other sources, and $15 million in tax increment financing by the city's redevelopment agency.

As you can see, the Giants formed a subsidiary, which borrowed half the contruction funds (which it will presumably repay from future revenues), and is paying for the balance through revenues from seat licenses, naming rights, etc. Get your facts straight. Surely MLB/Nats could manage to pay a much smaller amount using similar devices.


Posted by: | March 5, 2006 09:18 AM

The construction bonds could have been paid for by tax incriment financing from the development area local to the ballpark. After all, that's the area supposed to see the most development and resulting tax revenue increases, right? Really, why would much increased tax revenue from the stadium will be realized from outside of that area? Does anyone think that hordes of ballgame attendees will Metro to a staduim which sells expensive food and trinkets, watch a game that averages over 165 minutes, then Metro to Downtown or Capital Hill to eat dinner or shop, and then Metro back home? That's kind of a long and expensive day, especially with the family, and people's financial/time budgets are not infinite. Reality check: When DCers go to Baltimore to watch the Os, do they generally also hang out, eat, and shop in the Harbor? Or do they eat and shop in the stadium and call it a day?

I'd feel more secure knowing that the fabled tax dollars for DC really would come in large part from Marylanders and Virginians (since the majority of attendees are predicted to be from there), rather than from my pocket through my local businesses who will raise their prices to compensate for the construction bond financing business tax, and pass that increase to those who are already their customers- me.

Posted by: None | March 5, 2006 11:31 PM

Not that I have been to Baltimore for an O's game in close to a decade (thanks Pater A), but for the twenty years before that, we would often go to the Inner Harbor or Little Italy for a meal before or after a game.

There is no question that the creation of the Inner Harbor and subsequent construction of Camden Yards worked hand-in-hand to drive a lot of new money into Baltimore's coffers.

The difference between DC and all of the other places that nay-sayers cite is that DC is a different governmental jurisdiction from its suburbs. Thus, where other areas are simply shifting entertainment dollars from one in-state town to another, DC would aactually be drawing those dollars away from other states.

This is new revenue that would most likely not otherwise be spent in DC.

Posted by: Andrew | March 6, 2006 08:14 AM

Glover Park... The DC council is majority white.... so I ask the question... why do people even consider this to be a race issue?

Posted by: Navy Yard | March 6, 2006 12:40 PM

Thanks, Andrew. I'm still skeptical, but see your point.

Posted by: none | March 6, 2006 10:56 PM

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